The Pyramid Complex of Sahura: New perspective on the Old Kingdom Economy
Ancient Egypt is one of the most intriguing and archetypal cultures of Ancient history. The main reason for its outstanding achievements was a very efficient, capable economy, able to deal with the production and distribution of huge amounts of goods, which had to be procured according to the needs of a complex culture.
The early ancient Egyptian state can be described as a strongly centralized, complex, political and cultural organism operating on a number of levels, with the king at the top and his closest officials as his assistants. The state was responsible (in the name of the king) for collecting the resources in order to support the royal court and its projects. Large-scale constructions were the major output of the state administration, including not only the agricultural activities but also some "non-profitable" ideologically determined projects such as building the monumental royal tombs.
The so-called Royal funerary domains represented special types of state establishments, which played an important role in the economic system of the Old Kingdom. These domains were originally founded by kings in order to provide, among others, for the construction workers of his pyramids and other royal construction projects, as well as priests and servants conducting the cult of the deceased ruler. The royal funerary domains foundations played also an important part in the integration of the country, the development of its infrastructure and the consolidation of its central government. They became an important instrument of what is known as the internal establishment of still only sporadically inhabited and economically unexploited land.
The term “funerary domains” is used to designate their personification by female offering bearers carrying different commodities and leading various types of animals. Appearing in front of each figure was its name combined with the name of the king who found it. Originally, these scenes have been attested in Old Kingdom royal funerary complexes, at the latest from the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty (2613-2494 BC), contained long sequences of personified processions of the royal funerary domains of the complex’s owner. These scenes played a very important role in the decorative program of royal tombs. Long processions of royal funerary domains also decorate the walls of Old Kingdom private tombs. They provide us, among other information, with valuable evidence concerning the period of time during which the domains were in use.
A major addition to the evidence are the funerary domains from the causeway of Sahura the second king of the Fifth dynasty of the Old Kingdom in Abusir (2487–2475 BC). The reliefs came to light during the excavation in the pyramid complex of king Sahura which started in 1994 and continued from 2002 till 2020 .The exploration by the team has so far staged scene listing a large number of Sahura’s funerary domains which helped us to initiate new debates about their meaning, function, as well as their position within the system of the Old Kingdom economy.
Dr. Mohamed Ismail Khaled has been a research associate at the University of Würzburg since 2018 and Director General of the Department of Permanent Committee Affairs and Foreign Missions at the Ministry of Antiquities (MA) in Egypt since 2009. Since 2013, he has also been the head of the excavation at Abusir. His time as excavator includes the discovery of the Abusir blocks on the Sahura Dam. Since 2018, Mohamed Khaled has also been head of the DFG project "Archaeology of the Egyptian State and its Economy in the 3rd Millennium BC: A New Investigation of the Sahurê Way at Abusir." His research focuses on the administration, economy, geography, and kingship of the Old Kingdom, as well as the archaeology, history, and art history of Pharaonic Egypt. He obtained his Ph.D. dealing with "The Royal Funerary Domains in the Old Kingdom, New Evidence from the Causeway of the Pyramid Complex of Sahura" from Charles University in Prague, and in 2014-2016 he was awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Würzburg. From 2016 to 2018 Dr. Khaled was the coordinator of the project on the development and management of the pyramids on the Giza Plateau. He has received several awards for his work.